Swim/Dive

Mt. Rushmore: Gators Swimming

Photo by Eric Francis / Getty Images

Gators can swim. Who knew? Yes, obviously, Gators can swim. However, what many people don’t know is how successful Florida Gator swimmers really are. The University of Florida has produced many Olympians, but former Gator swimmers are some the most decorated athletes the school has to offer. Which ones stand out?

Tracy Caulkins (Stockwell) – 1982-1984

Though Tracy Caulkins (now Tracy Stockwell) isn’t a household name, you’ll think she deserves to be after hearing of her accomplishments. 

Before ever stepping foot onto campus in Gainesville, Caulkins was the most decorated swimmer in the nation having qualified for five individual events for the 1980 Olympic games. However, Caulkins and the rest of Team USA wouldn’t compete after America boycotted the Soviet Union games. 

As a freshman, Caulkins made history as she competed in the first ever Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. As the event progressed, Caulkins continued to win event after event until she had won every race she competed in; the 100-yard butterfly, the 200-yard butterfly, the 100-meter individual medley, the 200-meter individual medley and the 400-meter individual medley. 

During her sophomore season, Caulkins did more the same as she repeated her Championship run in the 100-meter individual medley, 200-meter medley and 400-meter medley. 

Can you guess what she did as a junior?

You got it, she three-peated in the 200-meter individual medley and the 400-meter medley while also adding titles in the 200-yard butterfly, 100-yard breaststroke as well as being a member of the title winning 400 and 800-yard freestyle relay teams. 

Caulkins represented Team USA in the 1984 Olympics where she won gold in all of her events; 200-meter individual medley, 400-meter individual medley and 400-meter individual medley relay. 

After the 1984 Olympics, Caulkins decided she had accomplished all that she wanted to and gave up competitive swimming; foregoing her senior year as a Gator. 

Dara Torres – 1986-1989

Personally, Torres is one of my favorite Gators of all time – across all sports. During her time at Florida, Torres captured nine SEC individual titles; that’s over two a year! Torres won the SEC titles in the 50-yard freestyle (1987, 1988, 1989), the 100-yard freestyle (1987, 1988, 1989), the 200-yard freestyle (1987) and the 100-yard butterfly (1988, 1989). However, the SEC championships don’t stop there. Torres was also a part of 12 championship winning relay teams during her Florida tenure. 

Moving into deeper water, Torres still found success at the NCAA Championship level. In 1988, Torres claimed the NCAA individual championship in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly. Torres also claimed six more NCAA titles during her college career as part of relay teams.

For Dara, the accolades stretch far and wide. She claimed the 1988 SEC Athlete of the Year award, the SEC Female Swimmer of the Year award in 1987 and 1989, and won the maximum number of All-American honors with 28 across her college career. 

Once graduated, Torres went on to represent Team USA in the 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008 olympic games. Torres has collected 12 olympic medals through her career; 4 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze. 

Ryan Lochte – 2002-2006

Perhaps the largest name in Florida Gator swimming, Ryan Lochte has certainly put on a show for swimming enthusiast around the globe. The Daytona Beach native stepped on campus in 2002 and instantly started a winning tradition that continues today. 

As a freshman in 2002, Lochte won the SEC Male Swimmer of the Year award and SEC Freshman of the Year award. He was also a three time SEC Champion that year while tallying 22 first place finishes across the season. 

During his sophomore season, Lochte picked up six all-American honors at the NCAA Championships and broke the American, U.S. Open and NCAA record for the 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:04.52.

As a junior, Lochte added seven more all-American honors at the NCAAs while taking top honors in the 200-meter individual medley, breaking the American, U.S. Open and NCAA record with a time of 1:41.71. Lochte also broke the NCAA meet record for the 200-yard back with 1:38.37. Lochte collected seven all-SEC honors and was named the SEC Male Swimmer of the Year.

During his senior year, he capped off his college career with four stellar performances at the NCAA Championships; which included defending his 200-meter individual medley with an NCAA and American record time of 1:40.55. Once again, Lochte took home the SEC Male Swimmer of the Year award. 

In summary, Lochte was a two time NCAA Swimmer of the Year, seven time NCAA Champion, seven time SEC Champion and 24 time all-American; all before collecting 12 Olympic medals (6 gold, 3 silver, 3 bronze) at the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic games. 

Caeleb Dressel – 2014-2018

How could we leave the recent face of Florida swimming out of the mix? 

As a freshman, Dressel became the first Gator to ever win the 50-yard freestyle NCAA title. Dressel posted a time of 18.67 seconds, setting a school record and just one hundredth of a second shy of the American record. Dressel tallied seven all-American honors his freshman year as well as being named the SEC Freshman of the Year. 

During year two at Florida, Dressel added two more individual titles to his list of accomplishments after swimming the 50-yard freestyle in 18.20 seconds and the 100-yard freestyle in 40.46 seconds; with both times being UF, U.S. Open, American and NCAA records. Capping off his sophomore year, Caeleb Dressel was the NCAA’s Co-Swimmer of the Year and the 2016 SEC Male Swimmer of the Year. 

As if he needed to win anymore events, Dressel did just that during his junior year. In year three, the Gator brought home three NCAA titles; the 50-yard freestyle, the 100-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly. Dressel swam a 40.00 flat on the 100-yard freestyle, breaking his own record from the year prior. In 2017, Dressel was once again named SEC Male Swimmer of the Year as well as the CSCAA Co-Swimmer of the Year. 

In 2018, Dressel had saved the best for last. During the NCAA Championships, he put together four NCAA title performances in four days. Dressel surpassed Ryan Lochte for most NCAA titles with the capturing of the 2018 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly and 200-meter freestyle relay titles. Totaling 10 titles, compared to Lochte’s eight. His time of 17.63 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle made Dressel the first human to ever swim sub-18 in the event. Dressel accomplished this same feat during the 100-freesyle where he became the first human to ever swim a sub-40; he swam a 39.90. 

While Dressel has already won two Olympic gold medals, considering the recent-graduate is still competing while out of college, we can expect to see him this time next year in Tokyo representing Team USA in the 2020 Olympics. 

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